Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Aristotle, Aquinas, and Paley: A Reply to Marie George

My article “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide” (now available online) appeared in Philosophia Christi Vol. 12, No. 1 (2010).  Prof. Marie George’s article “An Aristotelian-Thomist Responds to Edward Feser’s ‘Teleology’” appeared in the next issue, and was critical of what I said in my article about the relationship between the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) understanding of teleology and the conception of teleology implicit in William Paley’s “design argument.”  Philosophia Christi is published by the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and my reply to George has now been posted at the EPS website as part of their online article series.  (By the way, in case anyone is tempted to turn this into yet another episode in the never-ending debate between A-T and Intelligent Design theory, don’t bother.  Like me, Prof. George has been critical of ID.  She and I agree that ID has nothing to do with what Aquinas is up to in the Fifth Way.  What we differ over is whether Aquinas ought also to be distanced from what Paley is up to: Like many other Thomists, I say Yes; she says No.)

71 comments:

John Farrell said...

Good points, Ed. Interesting that Pr. George went back to earn a Bachelor's and a Master's in biology after she had earned her PhD in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Prof. Feser. It is important to keep the distance with Paley, not because of the frailty of his argument, but because he worked under modern mechanistic assumptions.

Alan Fox said...

Re Feser's link to Marie George's piece drawing parallels between ID "philosophy", I note she manages to misrepresent Dawkin's weasel" analogy, especially the fact that Dawkins himself points out the limited nature of the analogy when presenting it in "Blind Watchmaker".

She follows in the footsteps of Mary Midgley with her literal misunderstanding of selfish genes.

BenYachov said...

Dawkins is like the Mad Hatter he changes the meaning of his words when it suits him(I believe Midgley pointed this out).

He is a sub amateur non-philosopher arguing with real philosophers on philosophical matters while pretending he is doing science.

Alan Fox said...

Hi Ben

"I believe Midgley pointed this out"

No. Midgley thought Dawkins was using "selfish" in its literal sense with regard to genes, a basic misunderstanding of his idea.

Similarly, George repeats the misunderstanding of Dawkins' "Weasel" program, that was meant only to demonstrate the power of cumulative selection over random "search".

Alan Fox said...

He is a sub amateur non-philosopher arguing with real philosophers on philosophical matters while pretending he is doing science.

Does sell a lot of books, though. I don't think he is pretending to do science. He retired from active scientific research years ago and I don't recall him pretending otherwise. Why do you feel the need to demonize people with whom you disagree?

Daniel Smith said...

OK, now I'm confused.

Reading through your paper, I started to think that maybe I'm a Platonic teleological realist because I think that nature is not inherently teleological but rather that it is ordered to its ends by the mind of God and sustained in existence by the power of God. (The Platonic "third realm", for me, being the mind and power of God.)

Then I go on and discover that you equate that type of realism to ID and the belief that it is possible for parts of nature to be non-teleological.

Well, I don't believe that! I believe that all of nature is teleological because all of nature is ordered and sustained by God - ala Aquinas' fifth way.

I guess I don't get how Platonic teleological realism equates with thinking that nature may or may not be teleological? And, given your description of Aristotelian teleological realism - with its idea that the telos in a thing is just "what it is" and doesn't necessarily point to God - I'd have to say that I find the Platonic version more in line with my interpretation of the fifth way.

In short, I don't get how you get from Platonic to Paley and not to Aquinas? It seems to me that the Platonic part of the fifth way is the powerful part. It also seems to me to say that the order we see in nature is imposed from the outside (by God.)

Color me confused (again)!

Brandon said...

No. Midgley thought Dawkins was using "selfish" in its literal sense with regard to genes, a basic misunderstanding of his idea.

This is not correct, although it is a common misunderstanding of Midgley. Her point was that the use of the term 'selfish' was both a symptom of presuppositions about the world that Dawkins never bothered to support and on occasion did real work in glossing over flaws in his arguments (particularly with respect to how the biological relates to the ethical and to the intellectual more generally) as if it had literal force, despite, as you say, being the sort of thing that couldn't be taken literally.

Whether or not she was accurate about this is another issue, of course; but it's not the crude and stupid misreading Dawkins and some of his defenders like to pretend it is. In general, making this interpretation of Midgley is a sign of not having read her argument very closely.

BenYachov said...

>Why do you feel the need to demonize people with whom you disagree?

Yes Alan I've read your exchanges with Mike Gene over at Biologos recycling the boring excuses you use there to downplay & dismiss the philosophical incompetence of the likes of Dawkins or Coyne isn't going to fly with me.

Dawkins is a scientist who is trying to do philosophy. Really bad incompetent philosophy. That is not demonizing that is a mere brute fact. I love Dr. Feser to death but I would be the first to say his scientific knowledge of genetics is likely inferior to Dawkins. But on philosophy and proper use of language Dawkins is inferior to either Feser or Midgley.

Live with it.

BenYachov said...

>Similarly, George repeats the misunderstanding of Dawkins' "Weasel" program, that was meant only to demonstrate the power of cumulative selection over random "search".

Rather he was trying to show "god" wasn't necessary to have design in nature. More specifically showing a Paley style "interventionist" so called "deity" was not needed for change in species.

Well he succeeded. The "god" of Paley sucks out loud! But Dawkins didn't get rid of God. At least as we understand Him historically and classically.

One of the many malfunctions of the Gnu'Atheist Fundie chuckleheads like Dawkins or Coyne is they have a one size fits all anti-religious polemic.

High philosophical Concepts such as Aritotle's Unmoverd Mover or the Ground of All Being, or Being Itself, the Unconditioned Reality, The Absolute etc are put in the same catagory as Zeus, Flying Pasta Creatures or some bush spirit worshiped by some illiterate pagan on a desert Island.

Tis silly!

BenYachov said...

>In general, making this interpretation of Midgley is a sign of not having read her argument very closely.

Add to the fact most if not all the Gnu's reject philosophy outright or as in the case of Dennett or Harris believe forceful sophistical rhetoric(which one uses in politics) is a substitute for logical argument.

Heck in his debate with Bill Craig, Krauss makes his contempt for philosophy known threw out the debate. Stephen Hawkings sadly jumps on this anti-intellectual band wagon. I don't care at all that he disbelieves in God but his claim in THE GRAND DESIGN that "philosophy is dead" that sucks out loud!

None of these boneheads realizes that unlike anti-religious arguments, an anti-philosophy argument is itself a philosophical argument!

The less said about the Positivism and the Scientism errors the better.

BenYachov said...

Midgley pointed out Dawkins is incoherent and inconsistent in his use of language. He is fighting her on her turf not his.

In a fare fight between an anti-evolutionist Creationist on the scientific viability of Evolution I would bet all my money on Dawkins any day of the week.

But on philosophy to bet on him is a sucker's bet & will leave you destitute.

I think what pisses Dawkins fanboyz off big time is Midgley isn't some YEC rube who claims dinosaurs walked with man. She is a pro-evolution Atheist herself. But unlike Dick to the Dawk she is philosophically competent. Unlike Dick or his fanboyz.

Alan Fox said...

Yes Alan I've read your exchanges with Mike Gene over at Biologos recycling the boring excuses you use there to downplay & dismiss the philosophical incompetence of the likes of Dawkins or Coyne isn't going to fly with me.

I think the reason scientists no longer show much interest in philosophy is that it hasn't proved very useful as a scientific tool.

Alan Fox said...

And with George misrepresenting and misunderstanding Dawkins and his "Weasel" program, philosophy's contribution to science is not enhanced.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Science and Philosophy are both tools for discovering reality. In so far as they are both searching for truth, Philosophy is in just as much a position to be useful to science as science is to philosophy. A particular metaphysical understanding of nature, for instance, can certainly make more probable or less probable various interpretations of science.

In addition, why is it that New Atheists base their ontology on "utility." Just because a truth isn't particularly useful doesn't impact it's status as a truth. If, however, scientists are doing just fine staying within in their field - great! The problem is that they tend to overstep their authority and make poor philosophical claims and arguments.

Alan Fox said...

Philosophy is in just as much a position to be useful to science as science is to philosophy. A particular metaphysical understanding of nature, for instance, can certainly make more probable or less probable various interpretations of science.

An example of a philosophical analysis being of use in the field of science recently would be persuasive. Other than Karl Popper, which I'll grant you.

BenYachov said...

>An example of a philosophical analysis being of use in the field of science recently would be persuasive.

You don't use philosophy to get data the methods of science are sufficient for that. It's the interpretation & meaning of the data that makes it useful in understanding reality.

For that you need philosophy.

>Other than Karl Popper, which I'll grant you.

Yes Dave Stove a philosopher and an Atheist ripped him a new one.

The New Atheism is inferior.

BenYachov said...

>And with George misrepresenting and misunderstanding Dawkins and his "Weasel" program, philosophy's contribution to science is not enhanced.

I don't buy your unsubstantiated claim Marie George has misrepresented Dawkins' weasel program.

Dawkins believes dogmatically that Darwinian Evolution renders God unnecessary. Well it does render a Paley type "deity" unnecessary but it has no meaning for a Classical Thomistic view of God or teleology.

That the point. Dawkins doesn't know what he is talking about. George does. Get over it.

BenYachov said...

Dawkins doesn't understand Paley's inferior teleology from Aquinas' teleology from a hole in the head.

George does & so does Feser and most of the people here.

Get up to speed Alan if you are serious.

If you are here just to play Dawkins! Dawkins! Uber Theists! you are wasting your time.

Without philosophy science is dead.

Anonymous said...

Scientists and adherents of scientism who turn up their noses at philosophy are usually utterly incapable of shutting up about it.

Go, ye haters of philosophy, and do science. And keep your mouths shut about philosophy, metaphysics, and theology. To do so would be to gut the New Atheist movement overnight, because they're actually not very interested in science.

(Notice how shockingly little Dawkins has done for a long, long time.)

Untenured said...

As to the question of whether philosophy is useful to "science", I should note that this is a common rhetorical trick used by new atheists. They like to play realist on offense and then turn around and play pragmatist on defense. Whenever they want to argue for philosophical theses like materialism, or atheism, or hard determinism, they appeal to science. But they don't appeal to science as a merely useful heuristic for predicting and controlling natural events. They appeal to science as a true description of reality; otherwise it could not suppot their sweeping philosophical claims. But when someone challenges their philosophical claims using philosophical arguments, they retreat to the position that science isn't trying to describe reality; it only cares about what "works" in some nebulous utilitarian sense of "work". Then they declare that they don't need to bother with the "philosophy" because "science" "works" and philosophy doesn't. It's the philosopical equivalent of three-card monty, and Coyne, Dawkins, Myers, and Shermer play it all the time.

Joe said...

@AlanFox

Read biography of Einstein and you will read many times the influence of philosophy of Mach and Hume on his science. Read about his ethics and life and you will see strong influence of Schopenhauer's works.

Copenhagen interpretation of QM is pretty much philosophy rather than science itself. Although it is the consensus metaphysical/scientific views, it is philosophy.

And of course read "Metaphysical Foundation of Modern Science".

grodrigues said...

When in some public debate (I think W. L. Craig was also in it), Mr. Dawkins proposed Peter Singer for a Nobel prize in literature, I thought, wow, the man must have the literary sensibility of a large overgrown hemorrhoid. The comparison is a tad unfair, as hemhorroids are *slightly* less obnoxious.

Note: off-topic and uncalled for, I know. I just couldn't resist it. My policy on name-calling is aptly summarized by D. Berlinski in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxSZ8DyuC7o.

George R. said...

Ed, you write:

“The Scholastic view does not take the existence of a divine ordering intelligence
to follow directly from the existence of teleology in nature. An intermediate
step in argumentation is required, for the link between teleology and an ordering
intelligence is (with a nod to Aristotle) not taken to be obvious.”

This is simply untrue. The Scholastics understood that teleology immediately implied an ordering intelligence (and so, by the way, did Aristotle). If you want to argue otherwise, tell us, by what middle term did they link teleology to intelligence? In other words, what is it that necessitates teleology’s connection to an ordering intelligence, if it’s not the nature of teleology itself? Of course, you can’t tell us, because there is no such middle term. Teleology itself implies intelligence, and those who deny it simply don’t know what teleology means.

However, "apparent teleology" does not necessarily imply intelligence. So if there is a question about whether this or that example of teleology implies intelligence, it is really a question of whether it is a true case of teleology or merely apparent.

George R. said...

Ed, here’s what you had to say about Dembski’s (allegedly) mechanistic views:

“Having made this distinction, Dembski goes on explicitly to acknowledge
that just as “the art of shipbuilding is not in the wood that constitutes the
ship” and “the art of making statues is not in the stone out of which statues
are made,” “so too, the theory of intelligent design contends that the art of
building life is not in the physical stuff that constitutes life but requires a
designer” (emphasis added). In other words, living things are for ID theory
(at least as Dembski understands it) to be modeled on ships and statues, the
products of techne or “art,” whose characteristic “information” is not “internal”
to them but must be “imposed” from “outside.” And that just is what
A-T philosophers mean by a “mechanistic” conception of life.”

I can’t for the life of me find anything offensive in what Dembski has said here. This is a perfectly legitimate comparison of art to nature. When Dembski argues that “the art of
building life is not in the physical stuff that constitutes life” he is merely saying that the nature of the living thing is not inherent is its constituent elements as elements. Do you deny this? Do you contend, as some screwball evolutionists do, that the nature of the living thing is inherent in, say, the carbon, or the water, or the oxygen that constitute its matter? If not, then you must agree with Dembski that the nature of the living thing is imposed on them from outside themselves, and the latter are merely disposed to receive it. Thus, Demski's comparison is in perfect conformity with A-T philosophy.

Steve said...

George R.,
Have you read Book 4 Ch 1 of Aristotle's Metaphysics?

DNW said...

Untenured writes,


"Whenever they want to argue for philosophical theses like materialism, or atheism, or hard determinism, they appeal to science. But they don't appeal to science as a merely useful heuristic for predicting and controlling natural events. They appeal to science as a true description of reality; otherwise it could not suppo[r]t their sweeping philosophical claims. But when someone challenges their philosophical claims using philosophical arguments, they retreat to the position that science isn't trying to describe reality; it only cares about what "works" in some nebulous utilitarian sense of "work".


Nicely stated.

I've always found this dual game interesting, and wondered why the tactic hasn't generally garnered more systematic attention than it has.

One moment humbly beavering away in the service of humanity with instrumental reason and technique that makes no claims beyond its own circumscribed domain; the next grandly banishing metaphysics with metaphysical and normative proclamations of their own.

Alan Fox said...

I'm sorry for trolling the blog. Just really wanted to correct the misrepresentation of "Weasel" my Marie George. I see now the huge contribution being made by philosophy. More power to your elbow.

George R. said...

George R.,
Have you read Book 4 Ch 1 of Aristotle's Metaphysics?


Several times. Why?

BenYachov said...

>I'm sorry for trolling the blog. Just really wanted to correct the misrepresentation of "Weasel" my Marie George.

We are going to have to agree to disagree. I don't see a misrepresentation. But there you have it.

>I see now the huge contribution being made by philosophy. More power to your elbow.

Cheers man.

Daniel Smith said...

Regarding my earlier comment:

I guess my issue is with whether teleology is inherent in nature or not.

To me, "inherent" means "to be a quality of", or "to be inseparable from".

If teleology is inherent in natural objects (even if God put it there), then, if God ceases to exist, nature would continue on - due to the fact that its teleology is part of itself and not dependant upon another. This seems to me to be an unavoidable consequence of inherent teleology.

If, on the other hand, teleology is not inherent to nature but is instead inherent in God, then, if God ceases to exist, nature ceases to exist also. This too seems unavoidable to me.

Thus the "clockmaker winding up the universe and stepping away" scenario seems more in line with Aristotelean teleological realism than with Platonic teleological realism (at least the way they're defined in your paper Dr. Feser.)

So, with that in mind, I'd have to say I'm with Plato on this one - provided that Plato's third realm---where all forms exist---can be the mind of God (as I also said in my earlier post.)

Now, I know you said that Aquinas presented a version of teleological realism that is essentially a compromise between the two positions, but I don't quite get how that works - given my above understanding of the consequences of inherent teleology.

I hope you're still reading this Dr. Feser and can offer a thought or two!

Thanks in advance.

m. said...

Off subject:
Dr. Feser: Please put your "Last Superstition" on Kindle..

I gave my only hard copy to a worker who was putting some new hurricane windows in my condo.

As a result of talking to him, I thought he was pretty mixed up...(He is product of lousy education in one of our present United States "Catholic" schools.)

djindra said...

Untenured,

"Then they declare that they don't need to bother with the 'philosophy' because 'science' 'works' and philosophy doesn't."

Well, that's pretty much the way it is. Philosophy doesn't have a good track record in solving problems.

Richard said...

Djindra, that is one of the most ridiculous statements that I have ever heard. Either you are clueless about the way philosophy works, or you are a very, very petty troll. It is philosophy that decides in a large part how a technology is employed in the world. It is philosophy that guides science in the way it is either used or misused. It is philosophy that guides politicians, pundits, journalists, bloggers, used-car salesmen, and the fry-cook at your local McDonalds.
In using science for humanistic ends, we are following a philosophy that places human life and its quality front and center, bereft of any consideration of spirits, Gods, or God. This is a philosophical activity, despite the scientific activity that preceeded it. It was more than likely philosophy that lead to the consideration of the technology in the first place, due to humanistic concerns for the well-being of others. Philosophy is the integral process of the thinking man, and is utterly indisposable when considering how to take care of our major problems or issues.

Science itself can never be a moral force or improving agent. Science used without forethought has brought us the nuclear bomb, improved delivery systems for tobacco in cigarettes that use fiberglass to puncture the lungs, mustard gas, flame-throwers, anti-biotic resistant microbes, incredible amounts of pollution, the possibility of anthropogenic global warming, and other horrors that only endanger human life. I am willing to bet that more people have died by poorly thought out scientific "solutions" than have died in religious wars or pogroms.
I, a pagan, have more admiration for those Christians who are willing to think about what they are doing than I do Gnu Atheists who simply prattle off propaganda that only those of like mind could find intelligible. I, a progressive, have more admiration for conservatives who actaully come to their convictions by reason than those Gnu Atheists that come to theirs by reflex. Because it is reason that guides men, and by extension society and science (one should hope).

Anonymous said...

I just received my copy of TLS, here in Cape Town. I had to use an importation service, since local bookshops which sell books such as the 'God Delusion' and 'The Grand Design' did not even have it, nor was it possible to order it via them. An enlightening read so far.

Untenured said...

You are just equivocating on the notion of "problem", Djindra. Some problems involve the prediction and control of natural events. Science excels at solving these problems. Other problems involve making the world of experience intelligible to reason. Science says absolutely nothing about these problems. Just to give a partial list, science unaided by philosophy is powerless to answer questions about personal identity, the problem of other minds, the mind/body problem, the nature of causation, the nature of abstract objects, the nature of morality, the sources of epistemic justification and the problem of free will. And I could easily keep going with more and more topics that science cannot rersolve on its own. The new atheist types pretend that, because science is effective at solving "predict/control" problems, we can read solutions to "intelligibiliy" problems right off our best-going scientific theories. And of course we can't, which is why they produce so much inept, clueless philosophy. And yet they won't defend their inept, clueless philosophy on philosophical grounds because they pretend that they are just "following science wherever it leads". And I know from prior experience that you are an incorrigible troll, so don't expect me to waste mmy time getting into a tit-for-tat with you.

djindra said...

Richard,

"It is philosophy that decides in a large part how a technology is employed in the world. It is philosophy that guides science in the way it is either used or misused. It is philosophy that guides politicians, pundits, journalists, bloggers, used-car salesmen, and the fry-cook at your local McDonalds."

That's debatable. Nevertheless, you describe problems, not solutions to problems. It's you who haven't given this much thought.

djindra said...

Richard,

"I am willing to bet that more people have died by poorly thought out scientific "solutions" than have died in religious wars or pogroms."

But you just claimed that it was philosophy that guided these choices, not science. Make up your mind.

" I, a pagan, have more admiration for those Christians who are willing to think about what they are doing than I do Gnu Atheists who simply prattle off propaganda that only those of like mind could find intelligible."

I doesn't surprise me that a New Age dabbler would identify with the Gnu Age dabblings here.

djindra said...

Untenured,

"science unaided by philosophy is powerless to answer questions about personal identity, the problem of other minds, the mind/body problem,"

I beg to differ.

"... the nature of causation..."

Do you doubt causation?

"... the nature of abstract objects,..."

I suppose that belongs to the "mind" issue. That definitely falls into the science and technology category, though some philosophers seem pretty defensive about it.

"... the nature of morality..."

Is morality built into us or not? I think some around here think that it is. If so (and I agree) it definitely is a scientific concern. In 2500 years philosophers haven't made much headway on the issue.

"...the sources of epistemic justification..."

Science is the answer to that question.

"...and the problem of free will."

What's the problem there?

Richard said...

No, Djindra, I stated that poorly thought out science has caused more problems than it has solved. My point is that when you do not carefully think out the philosophical and moral issues that come with a scientific solution, you get shoddy work.
Now, a question for you. If philosophy is so pointless and solves no problems, why do people look to Daniel Dennet, Peter Singer, etc. for answers? Despite their commitment to materialism and the solutions given to us by science, they still seem to think that philosophy is important for some reason. Never mind the fact that they are terrible at what they do, they still seem to get their articles read and their books bought. But since "science" gives us all the answers, why do they bother?
Oh, and as far as it goes for me being a "New Age" kind of guy, you're wide off the mark.

Anonymous said...

"... the nature of causation..."

Do you doubt causation?


No, but atheist poster boy David Hume did. And many of your fellow infidels swear by that name. I'm surprised that you don't.

--


"... the nature of abstract objects,..."

I suppose that belongs to the "mind" issue. That definitely falls into the science and technology category, though some philosophers seem pretty defensive about it.


What do science and technology have to say about categories of things? Are you going to run a controlled experiment to find out about supervenience? ahahahaha.

--

"... the nature of morality..."

Is morality built into us or not? I think some around here think that it is. If so (and I agree) it definitely is a scientific concern. In 2500 years philosophers haven't made much headway on the issue.


Actually we have made amazing progress since then. It's just that the last three centuries have been particularly problematic because a bunch of spergs have overcomplicated things.

Still, what are you going to do? Run a controlled experiment to find out that murder is wrong? Well, there's one that's been going on since the 1960s and many still find the evidence inconclusive.

--

"...the sources of epistemic justification..."

Science is the answer to that question.


How is science going to tell me that I am justified in believing that, for all right triangles, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides?

Tell me. I want to know.

--

"...and the problem of free will."

What's the problem there?


Not much. Just that some of your fellow materialists like to believe that there is no such thing because, you know, reality is a huge deterministic machine, just... ~matter in motion~

Anonymous said...

The great irony of all these philosophy haters is that they spend a large amount of time... doing philosophy.

Dismiss metaphysics for supposedly being "too abstruse and speculative," then proceed to do shoddy metaphysics when talking about causation and the interpretation of scientific results.

Dismiss ethics for being supposedly "too arbitrary and inconclusive," then spend hours talking about utilitarianism and how science 'informs it'.

Dismiss epistemology for "not giving a correct account of knowledge," then complain about other colleagues' grounds for not accepting a theory.

...I can keep on going. And you can keep on trying to philosophize yourself out of philosophy.

james said...

BenYachov:

"I don't see a misrepresentation.”

It should be pointed out that George really does misrepresent the “Weasel” program. There’s a lot we can say against Dawkins, but that doesn’t excuse unreflectively taking just any criticism of him as the truth. She says:

“[Dawkins] asks, what if the computer retained those of the randomly generated letters that happened to fall in the right places, and then generated random letters only for the remaining places?”

But that’s a false description of the software, displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of the Dawkins’ point. All the letters in an offspring are subject to possible mutation, even the ones that are already correct. The sequence of letters converges to “methinks it is like a weasel” not because we seal off correct letters from further mutation, but because there is a built-in notion of survival-of-the-fittest—an offspring survives to the next generation because it is closest among its siblings to the target phrase. But it could easily be further away than its parent (though such an occurrence is unlikely).

Anyway, from my experience in these comment sections I fail to see why this example elicits such a strong negative reaction from you. This little thought experiment-as-computer program isn’t about atheism but against creationism (specifically the idea that if evolution were true it would be a 100% random process).

DNW said...

Richard writes,

"If philosophy is so pointless and solves no problems, why do people look to Daniel Dennet, Peter Singer, etc. for answers? Despite their commitment to materialism and the solutions given to us by science, they still seem to think that philosophy is important for some reason. Never mind the fact that they are terrible at what they do ..."


Yeah. I suppose it's obvious that people mean or intend different things when they use the term philosophy.

Sometimes they use it as a pejorative. Sometimes, when they are doing it, not so much.

I have an old, late 1950's, scholastic philosophy book on my shelf titled something like "Introduction to Metaphysics or First Philosophy".

It's probably what someone who has no use for philosophy has in mind when they use the term.

But as Feser's link shows, even prior to the ascendance of analytic philosophy and the philosophy of language, there was a becoming awareness on the part of some as to what the discipline of philosophy at a minimum, was about:



"Whenever philosophy seems abstruse, hairsplitting, or frivolous, it’s worth meditating on G. K. Chesterton’s definition of what philosophy is all about:

Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out."



And after all, what was the original purpose of Aristotle's dialectical analysis before it was later called "logic"? It was in large measure conceived of as forensic, was it not?


Now maybe people really don't need to go through all that speculative and logic chopping rigamarole before they start shooting at each other over the impudence of the interpersonal claims which some people make on other people in the supposed name of what is socially "right" or "progressive" or "obvious", but a reasonable man probably thinks it worthwhile to go through it first, simply on prudential grounds.

George R. said...

Ed, in your response to George’s first criticism you write:

“George takes issue with my statement that for Aristotle, “the end
or goal of a material substance is inherent to it.”2 To this she replies that “it is not the
end itself which is inherent to the natural thing, but rather the inclination or tendency
to the end.”3 This is an odd bit of nitpicking. Naturally, I agree with George; being
down (to use one of her examples) is not in the stone itself, but is rather the end
toward which the stone tends. […] Strictly speaking, what is inherent is only the pointing, tendency, or directedness itself, and (obviously) not the end that is pointed to. Hence when I wrote that “the end or goal of a material substance is inherent to it,” I would have thought it obvious that I was merely speaking elliptically.”

I would tend to agree that this would be knit-picking, if it weren’t for the fact that you seem to be suggesting that according to Aristotle final causality is a sort of brute fact in nature. Therefore, I think it was legitimate for George to point out that final causality is primarily and in an unqualified sense an extrinsic cause, its effects alone being inherent in the thing. Her criticism was, therefore, helpful in clarifying this truth.

This clarification also opens up the question of whether or not it would be committing the fallacy of composition to say that nature as a whole also requires a final cause, which by definition would stand outside of the entire natural universe.

Daniel Smith said...

Well this discussion has turned into a "philosophy vs science" debate now so there's probably no hope that Dr. Feser will actually answer my on-topic questions on Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Paley.

:(

djindra said...

Richard,

"If philosophy is so pointless and solves no problems, why do people look to Daniel Dennet, Peter Singer, etc. for answers?"

I doubt more than a handful do. Virtually nobody has heard of them. Besides, IMO, people don't read philosophy or theology looking for big answers. If they're looking at all, they're look for confirmation of answers they've already formed in their own heads.

"I stated that poorly thought out science has caused more problems than it has solved."

It seems kind of silly to have such a discussion via computers.

"Despite their commitment to materialism and the solutions given to us by science, they still seem to think that philosophy is important for some reason."

I also think it's important but probably not in the same way or to the same degree

djindra said...

Anonymous,

I think you overstate Hume's influence among "infidels." I've not read him. I suppose I should because his name pops up so often around here. But I can assure you his opinions on causation would not shake my confidence in it.

"What do science and technology have to say about categories of things?"

By "abstract objects" I assumed the assertion was that science can't ever explain how we form ideas from specific tangible items -- like apples. I don't know what your point is.

"Actually we have made amazing progress since then. It's just that the last three centuries have been particularly problematic because a bunch of spergs have overcomplicated things."

And how do you propose to prove that? I won't even require certainty. How do you propose to show that philosophers (scholastics, I presume) made any progress on this issue? If any progress was made at all I think it was possibly due to a few writers, especially novelists, but mostly to generations of experience.

"How is science going to tell me that I am justified in believing that, for all right triangles, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides?"

Math is a tool of science. It's not normally considered a tool of moral philosophy. But it's worth a try I suppose.

"Just that some of your fellow materialists like to believe that there is no such thing because, you know, reality is a huge deterministic machine, just... ~matter in motion-"

It could be. But theologians are the primary debaters of that issue. As for myself, if anything falls under the category of near certainty, it's my own free will.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"The great irony of all these philosophy haters is that they spend a large amount of time... doing philosophy."

I don't hate philosophy. Quite the contrary. But I don't take it too seriously either. Mostly it's just a mind game like crossword puzzles or chess. It's interesting like a good autobiography or a serious conversation, and sometimes like a good novel. But don't expect too much out of it.

BenYachov said...

So djindra doesn't know anything about philosophy not even Hume but somehow he knows philosophy is not important and has not contributed as much as science.


Kay.....

Anonymous said...

Classic djindra

Daniel Smith said...

Michael Denton - one of the founding fathers of the ID movement - rejects the mechanistic worldview and embraces Aristotelian forms and essences!

djindra said...

BenYachov,

There's a lot to read. I just haven't been that interested in Hume. I'm on my second reading of Feser's Mind, if that count. I've been on a Plato binge this year, if that counts. At least Plato's Socrates admits he doesn't know, that is, if we're supposed to believe him.

BenYachov said...

>I'm on my second reading of Feser's Mind, if that count. I've been on a Plato binge this year, if that counts.

But you already formed your negative view on philosophy before even coming to this blog. Indeed when you first came here you touted both how useless philosophy was and your own ignorance of it.
You also confused philosophy with Theology/Religion.

It's good to see now you are starting to do some reading so you don't look like a complete idiot.

>I'm on my second reading of Feser's Mind, if that count. I've been on a Plato binge this year, if that counts.

It doesn't really count since you already formed your negative view.
You are like a Young Earth Creationist (Kirk Cameron comes to mind) who has merely read a few Chapters of "The Origins of the Species" yet triumphantly crows Evolution is still bunk!

It's not impressive.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

I didn't come here touting my ignorance of philosophy. That's your fantasy. You repeat it so often I'm thinking you may actually believe it by now.

If you want to mention those who confuse theology with philosophy you should also mention Aquinas and Feser. We could include a dozen more philosopher/theologians without trying too hard. I formed my skeptical views about philosophy and theology by reading both.

Btw, I formed my negative view of Feser by reading his posts here and elsewhere. "Philosophy of Mind" simply continues the trend.

BenYachov said...

>I didn't come here touting my ignorance of philosophy.

Clearly you did. You said it was useless and a waste of time and you equated it with theology. Also you kept linking it to politics.

Do we have to dig up your past quotes? You can't lie your way out of this.

>I formed my skeptical views about philosophy and theology by reading both.

Yes and Kirk Cameron has read a few chapters of ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES and "knows" Evolution is bunk.

Your nonsense is just as impressive (which is to say not) and you have nothing intelligent to contribute.

You haven't read any philosophy till now. You are only doing so because you see how foolish you look arguing from a position of ignorance.

BenYachov said...

Some Plato and one book by Feser no Hume, Aristotle, Aquinas, not even Gnu'Atheists like Harris or Dennett that is the extent of djindra's philosophical education.

For that he says he is "skeptical" of the value of philosophy.

djindra you are an outstanding troll!

Anonymous said...

Djindra,

You write that "I formed my skeptical views about philosophy and theology by reading both." Are we to take you as saying that you've been convinced, through philosophy, of philosophy's inadequacy? You do realize how absurd that sounds right? You can't philosophize your way out of philosophy. That would be like, as the wise Bill Vallicella once wrote, "copulating ones way to chastity."

djindra said...

BenYachov,

Yes, you have to dig up my past quotes. Then I can tell you how you misinterpreted them once again.

The extent of my reading goes beyond Plato and one book by Feser.

But more importantly, I notice you haven't denied philosophy and theology are linked in Aquinas.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"Are we to take you as saying that you've been convinced, through philosophy, of philosophy's inadequacy? You do realize how absurd that sounds right?"

A little common sense might be of some benefit to you. I also formed a skeptical view of reality TV by watching it. I formed a skeptical view of psychoanalysis by reading the psychoanalysts. You see, normal people bring something of themselves to the party and can form opinions quite independent of the material they read or watch. Some would call that a subjective POV. Feser's philosophy of mind depends on it.

BenYachov said...

>Yes, you have to dig up my past quotes. Then I can tell you how you misinterpreted them once again.

As I recall you said the TLS was about politics even thought you admitted you had not read it.

>The extent of my reading goes beyond Plato and one book by Feser.

No doubt but not in philosophy it seems.

>But more importantly, I notice you haven't denied philosophy and theology are linked in Aquinas.

Why would I deny this? I would even say philosophy, metaphysical naturalism and science are linked in the writings of Quintin Smith.

Or modernist philosophy, monism and materialism are linked in the Philosophy of Dennett.

Or Aristotelian Philosophy is linked to the Atheist Objectivism of Ayn Rand.

Your the Gnu'Atheist fundie who thinks all philosophy is bunk, equated with religion and Science alone is the sole standard of truth(which BTW is a philosophical view known as Positivism).

Not I.

You are an outstanding troll djindra.

Anonymous said...

Djindra,

I believe you could greatly benefit from common sense. The problem with the position "philosophy is dumb" is that it is itself a philosophical position. It can't be both convincing and unconvincing at once. Taking that stance is absurd and self-defeating.

The difference in your example is an equivocation on the term "through." In the case of reality tv, a more appropriate term would be "after." "After" having watched reality tv, and, applying outside aesthetic and intellectual standards, you have determined that it is trite and terrible. With philosophy, however, you are claiming to have come to your skepticism "through" it. In other words, philosophical arguments have convinced you that philosophical arguments are worthless. Philosophy deals in first principles and is not judged by "outside standards." It is, in fact, what decides standards.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

Maybe when you find a person who claims "philosophy is dumb" you can take up the issue with him.

As far as your "equivocation" accusation goes, that's nonsense. It's nonsense whether I mean what you say I mean or not. The whole method of philosophy is to respond to other philosophical schools and destroy their arguments. If one is supposed to find it usesful at all one must use judgement and decide who is right. Your nonsensical position means nobody could ever decide anything is right, or even compelling.

Of course I don't mean what you say I mean, as my previous post to you should have made clear. But you insist on your omniscience.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

So you don't deny philosophy and theology are linked in Aquinas. I'm right after all.

BenYachov said...

You are still an outstanding troll djindra.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

@Djindra,

If you want to mention those who confuse theology with philosophy you should also mention Aquinas and Feser.

But more importantly, I notice you [BenYachov] haven't denied philosophy and theology are linked in Aquinas.

So using philosophical arguments in theology = confusing theology with philosophy? Of course philosophy and theology are linked in Aquinas. What on earth makes you believe anyone has said anything else? Your initial claim was not that philosophy and theology was linked, but that they were confused. That is something different entirely. Something being linked ≠ something being confused.

It amazes me that you actually claim that you aren't ignorant. Maybe you meant that you are confused...

So you don't deny philosophy and theology are linked in Aquinas. I'm right after all.

Nobody denies that 2+2=4. I win!!!!!

djindra said...

Kjetil Kringlebotten,

Your initial claim was not that philosophy and theology was linked, but that they were confused. That is something different entirely.

You're jumping into a dispute between me and BenYachov that started in "Why are (some) physicists so bad at philosophy?" In two separate comments I mentioned that first theists, then later, philosophers, play word games. This is obviously true of both groups as it is true of all of us from time to time. But this lead BenYachov to claim, "I thought it was Theists who have been playing word games? One of the marks of the New Atheism and its fundamentalist nature is the blind tendency to conflate philosophy & religion."

I probably shouldn't mention that both theists and philosophers have been carnivorous too. No telling what sort of hot water that would get me into.

So the "initial claim" was not mine at all. It was BenYachov's initial accusation of something I didn't actually claim. The accusation means nothing. I know that. I think BenYachov knows that. But he likes to make it anyway. It seems that's the level of discussion he finds fun.

BenYachov said...

djindra is an outstanding troll with a short memory and pretty much no meaningful knowledge in philosophy.

He does equate philosophy with theology. Since God is something that can only be proven philosophically and not scientifically. Thus djindra equates philosophy and theology.

Outstanding troll.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

Ever read any of Francis Schaeffer? I know it's a stretch to call him either a philosopher or a theologian. But some people swear by him. It's hard to read him and find that line between theology and philosophy. The same is true of Aquinas, though Aquinas is not as annoying.

BenYachov said...

>Ever read any of Francis Schaeffer?

No.

You are still an outstanding troll. You know nothing about philosophy yet you attack and reject it.

Outstanding troll!

Anonymous said...

"Nobody denies that 2+2=4. I win!!!!! "

That's not true. There is a new fruit in the atheist camp that seems to think that 2+2 = 5.

His name is krauss and debated William Craig and was made to look like a fool.